“Our mission is to strengthen services to meet diverse human needs through the collaboration of individuals and organizations,” read a large sheet of poster paper, one of many the group used to outline what was most needed in the community.
“Involving the entire community to address all needs is the most efficient way to work,” said Eric Samuels, guest speaker and manager of the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care. “When government, local communities and nonprofits work together, it eliminates inefficiency and duplication and really addresses the issues.”
Representatives from more than 50 different agencies were invited to discuss what they felt were top needs in the community that were unmet, and brainstorm ideas for how to solve them.
Those invited included governmental and faith-based agencies, and agencies and experts in mental health, different levels of the foster care system, substance abuse, domestic abuse, hunger, physical disabilities, illiteracy and veterans’ issues.
The top priorities the group assessed were health care, education, housing and employment.
Small groups were created during the workshop with specialists from each of the top priority areas. Each small group brainstormed how they would address the issue.
The health care small group suggested identifying providers of health care services to low-income populations already in the community; identifying those organizations’ costs and criteria; analyzing 211 data from the wider information service; educating and raising awareness in the community; and identifying gaps in health care.
Suggestions for education initiatives included working more closely with school officials, creating mentoring programs and sex-education programs, more English as a Second Language and literacy initiatives, and offering life-skills classes for high school students to address skills such as budgeting.
The employment group suggested addressing basic needs, offering interview preparation, résumé building, job training, collaborating with temporary agencies and offering job-skill courses.
The group decided it will continue to have meetings once a month.
“Now the real work begins,” said Ken Martin, one of the guest speakers and CEO of the Texas Homeless Network, based in Austin. “It’s important to make a strategic plan for the first year. If you don’t keep your momentum going, people will lose interest. This is a critical point in your development. You’ve done great today, I am encouraged.”
Attendees were excited to get started and hopeful to bring in more partners.
“The response has been reaffirming,” group organizer Christina Fulsom said. “All of us want to help and all of us recognize our limitations. We have to work together to truly help people who need us.”
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